When it comes to the holidays, Thanksgiving can often seem like the forgotten middle child in between the spooky fun of Halloween and the magical excitement of Christmas. This is especially true when it comes to media, as there certainly aren’t as many classic movies and specials as there are for the other two aforementioned celebrations.
Still, if you’re looking for some Thanksgiving content to watch in between the Macy’s Parade and National Dog Show, there are definitely some gems out there. And a lot of them are actually just “normal” television episodes themed to the holiday. Even if you haven’t seen all of these shows, these episodes are still worth checking out, and you might even find a new series to watch.
Here are our top ten Thanksgiving-themed television episodes.
10) Fresh Off The Boat: “Huangsgiving”
Competitiveness among family members can rear its ugly head during the holidays, which is exactly what happens in this episode from Fresh Off the Boat’s second season. Every Thanksgiving morning, Jessica’s mother calls to announce whether she or her sister, Connie, is going to host the big dinner that year, leaving the “lucky” chosen one just a few hours to put together a fantastic meal.
This year, Jessica is given the duty, meaning she and the rest of the Huangs must pull together to put together a meal that will not only satisfy her mother, but prove she is better at the task than her sister. Connie is going through some other, more serious struggles of her own though, and the bond between the two sisters is ultimately the core of this episode.
9) Cheers: “Thanksgiving Orphans”
“Friendsgivings” – or Thanksgiving-style meals shared with friends rather than family – are a common practice nowadays, especially among younger generations. Some do this in addition to a family dinner, while it serves as a welcome replacement for others.
Such is the case in this Season 5 episode of Cheers. “Thanksgiving Orphans” sees nearly everyone in the main cast of characters having nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, which leads to Carla agreeing to host a potluck meal at her place for the holiday.
Of course, one thing or another goes wrong for each character, culminating in a food fight that clearly had the show’s studio audience going wild. This episode’s story of found family is one that resonates now more than ever, so it’s still a great Thanksgiving pick all these years later.
9) The Simpsons: “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”
Early The Simpsons standouts include the Christmas-themed pilot and first Treehouse of Horror Halloween episodes, but the show gave Thanksgiving its due in the second season with a Bart-centric episode that sees him running away from home after some family drama during their big turkey dinner.
This episode definitely has the old-school Simpsons feel of the first couple of seasons which focused a bit more on heartwarming family dynamics, and it’s the sibling relationship between Bart and Lisa that really makes it worth the watch.
7) Steven Universe: “Gem Harvest”
This special double-length episode of Steven Universe is the only episode on this list which touches on the topic of dealing with bigoted relatives on Thanksgiving. Steven’s uncle Andy comes to visit and longs for the return of old family traditions. Unsurprisingly, he is none too pleased that Steven and his father Greg are living with “illegal aliens” (who are actual aliens, the Crystal Gems).
This episode is about understanding the value of new developments when it comes to family and celebrations, and how to help others come to accept them as well. While it is a fairly simplistic – and perhaps a tad naive – delivery of this message, it’s definitely heartwarming to see how much Steven loves the Gems and truly sees them as part of his family.
6) Friends: “The One With All the Thanksgivings”
Friends produced several turkey day episodes over its decade-long run, but the most beloved of the bunch is probably Season 5’s “The One With All the Thanksgivings”. Like the aforementioned Cheers episode, this one sees the main crew gathering together for the holiday, in this instance at Monica’s place. There, they reminisce about their worst Thanksgiving’s ever.
The silly stories told via flashbacks in this one are great, but it’s the ending that is perhaps the most significant and memorable part of the episode (well, besides the turkey-on-the-head business) as it sees a love confession for one of the most significant relationships in the entire show.
5) The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air “Talking Turkey”
Class difference is a key theme of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, especially in its earlier years. In this first season episode, Will’s mom pays a visit from Philadelphia to Bel Air for Thanksgiving, and isn’t too pleased by what she sees. She worries Will and his cousins aren’t being taught the value of hard work in their lives of luxury, so she puts them in charge of preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
Naturally, the kids aren’t exactly stellar in their attempts to prepare the meal, and the shenanigans are just the kind of classic sitcom fare that’s perfect for families to watch together for the cozy holiday.
4) Modern Family: “Three Turkeys”
Modern Family puts its ensemble cast of three families that make up one extended family to good use in Season 8’s Three Turkeys. The Dunphy family is supposed to host the dinner, but after a few mishaps decide to move it to Claire’s father’s house, which is a problem since he and his wife and kids are secretly still there while pretending to have gone on vacation for the holiday. And then there’s the Pritchett-Tuckers, who are having trouble getting daughter Lily to behave for the meal.
This episode is pure wacky sitcom shenanigans at their finest, and is generally considered one of the best of the show’s later seasons.
3) How I Met Your Mother: “Slapsgiving”
The Thanksgiving episode of How I Met Your Mother’s third season sees Marshall and Lily hosting their first Thanksgiving as a married couple, while Ted and Robin navigate their post-breakup relationship. But the real storyline that shines is the “slap bet” between Marshall and Barney, a multi-season plot that works its way into the show every once and awhile that allows Marshall to slap Barney a certain number of times – at any time he chooses – for losing a bet in a previous season.
The highlight of the episode is, of course, the now-classic song “You Just Got Slapped” performed wonderfully by Jason Segel.
2) Boy Meets World: “Turkey Day”
Another episode that highlights class differences, “Turkey Day” sees Cory and Shawn getting their families together for Thanksgiving dinner. But trouble arises when Cory’s middle-class parents have difficulty finding common ground with Shawn’s less-well-off ones.
It’s not a matter of resentment, but an uncomfortable undercurrent that eventually bubbles over and leads the adults to conclude that this won’t, that it can’t work.
Cory and Shawn fear that this divide will affect their friendship as they grow up, but the kids decide to go ahead with the Thanksgiving dinner regardless. The ending is a rarity for the show, as it’s an example of the kids teaching the adults an important lesson, rather than the other way around.
1) Bob’s Burgers: “The Quirk-ducers“
Bob’s Burgers has more Thanksgiving-focused episodes than most other shows, and this one is a true stand-out. Tina writes a wild, inappropriate story called the “Quirky Turkey”, and Louise manages to convince Mr. Frond to make it the school’s annual Thanksgiving play for the year so it will get canceled, thus extending Thanksgiving break for the kids.
The sheer ridiculousness of Tina’s story, as well as Louise’s attempts to shut the show down, make up the meat of this episode’s comedy, and the musical number at the end pushes it over the top and makes it not only the best Thanksgiving episode of Bob’s Burgers, but of all time.
(featured image: NBC)
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